Guantanamo detainees say US military tortured them

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The Independent Online

Two of the British men freed from Guantanamo Bay have accused their American captors of inhuman treatment, which included being beaten and interrogated at gunpoint.

Two of the British men freed from Guantanamo Bay have accused their American captors of inhuman treatment, which included being beaten and interrogated at gunpoint.

Jamal al-Harith, 37, told yesterday's Mirror newspaper how a squad of five US military police attacked him with batons, fists, feet and knives after he refused to receive an injection. Mr Harith, of Manchester, said the squad, from the US military's Extreme Reaction Force, chanted "comply, comply. Do not resist. Do not resist," while conducting the attack. "They were really gung-ho, hyped up and aggressive," he said. "One of them attacked me really hard and left me with a deep red mark from my backbone down to my knee." Half an hour later, a second attack was carried out on him.

"The beatings were not nearly as bad as the psychological torture - bruises heal after a week but the other stuff stays with you. The whole point of Guantanamo was to get to you psychologically," Mr Harith, a divorced father-of-three, told the newspaper, which paid him for his story.

Tareq Dergoul, another of the five Britons released from the Cuban camp on Tuesday, also alleges he was the victim of a botched operation which led to the amputation of his arm in his first account of his two years' detention. Mr Dergoul, 26, a former care worker from Bethnal Green, east London, made it clear yesterday that he holds the British government equally responsible for his ordeal.

Mr Dergoul is believed to have been captured by American forces near the Taliban strong-hold of Tora Bora in Afghanistan before being taken to Bagram airbase. It is understood that he suffered injuries to his arm and had to have it amputated by an American medical team.

In a statement issued yesterday through his solicitor, Louise Christian, it was clear that he was finding it difficult describing his terrible experiences to his family. The statement said: "Tareq Dergoul has started to try to give his family and his solicitor Louise Christian an account of the horrific things which happened to him during detention at Bagram, Kandahar and Guantanamo Bay. This has included an account of botched medical treatment, interrogation at gunpoint, beatings and inhuman conditions."

It added: "Tareq Dergoul condemns the US and the UK governments for these gross breaches of human rights and demands the immediate release of all the other detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

"Tareq finds it very difficult to talk about things and his family believe his mental health has been severely affected by the trauma he has suffered. We therefore appeal to the media to respect his privacy and not to try and find him.

"His family do not anticipate that he will be speaking to any journalists in the foreseeable future because of his poor health."

Ms Christian also made it clear yesterday that the publicist Max Clifford would not be helping Mr Dergoul to sell his story. She said: "Max Clifford has never met Tareq Dergoul and he never will."

In addition to the beatings, Mr Harith said the abuse at the camp included US soldiers bringing in prostitutes and parading them naked in front of devout Muslims.

On at least 10 occasions, prisoners who had never before seen an "unveiled" woman would be forced to watch them parade up and down, touching their own bodies. "It was a profoundly disturbing experience for these men," he said. "They would refuse to speak about what had happened. It would take perhaps four weeks for them to tell a friend." Mr al Harithsaid he accidentally strayed into Afghanistan, believing he had paid a lorry driver to take him to Turkey, via Iran. He was arrested there on allegations of spying.

Camp X-Ray Regime

The regime, as Mr Harith describes it:

¿ Prisoners were shackled for up to 15 hours at a time in hand and leg cuffs with links that cut into the skin

¿ They were kept in wire cages that were open to the elements, as well as rats, snakes and scorpions

¿ Psychological torture included being denied water before prayers, meaning Muslims could not wash according to their religion, and depriving one inmate of food, while the others on a block ate

¿ Force feeding was used to end a hunger strike by 70 per cent of the 600 inmates, which started after a guard kicked a copy of the Koran

¿ When carrying out an amputation, US medical staff often removed more of a limb than was necessary

¿ Prisoners were left malnourished by a diet of porridge and fruit. Some food was 10 years out of date

¿ Treats included pizzas, ice cream and McDonald's and the occasional chance to watch a James Bond film